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Pirates progress to final, but Holder is injured
DEPLETED Pirates tonight overcame the loss of injured captain Chris Holder to remarkably defy the odds and move into the Knockout Cup final.
In a dramatic and drawn-out second leg at the East of England Showground, the defending cup holders progressed after a last-heat 5-1 from inspirational duo Niels-Kristian Iversen and Krzysztof Kasprzak.
Guest Iversen (14) played a key role but Kasprzak was the star of the show as he extended to 34 paid 36 his staggering haul over the two-legged contest.
After Holder had joined Darcy Ward and Piotr Pawlicki on the Pirates injury list, Poole really had no right to book a final date with Coventry, with the first leg at Brandon tomorrow and return in Dorset on Monday.
Leading 51-39 following their home win last night, Pirates looked up against it when world champion Holder was ruled out before completing a race.
Pirates team boss Neil Middleditch revealed the Australian sustained suspected knee ligament damage in a heat four smash involving Panthers’ Mads Korneliussen, who was also forced to withdraw from the clash.
With Ricky Kling, who failed to score from five rides, enduring another nightmare, Pirates’ grip on the trophy looked to be slipping fast.
But thanks largely to in-form Kasprzak and guest Iversen, Pirates held off the Peterborough charge to emerge victorious 94-89 on aggregate, despite losing 50-43 on the night.
Kasprzak won a match race against Michael Jepsen Jensen amid an early Peterborough surge of five straight wins that saw the overall Poole lead cut to just three points.
By the end of heat 11, Pirates had opened up a seven-point cushion, only for that advantage to be trimmed to just one ahead of a final-heat showdown.
After Iversen had lost a match race against Hans Andersen, the guest and Kasprzak secured a match-winning maximum.
Middleditch told the Daily Echo: “We got points when it mattered. Without a team, it wasn’t a bad effort!”
Middleditch said Holder was “99.9 per cent” certain to miss the final and admitted the club was struggling to find an available guest rider to replace him tomorrow.